For three years, Gov. Udom Emmanuel copiously insinuated and hid behind the excuse of having inherited huge debts from his predecessor and mentor, Chief Godswill Akpabio.
To any audience with listening ears, Udom Emmanuel lamented his lack of funds to pay outstanding gratuities and pensions. Many Akwa Ibomites believed him, sympathizing with his government for the lack of funds to maintain of old projects and to start new ones.
Unwilling to disclose details of inherited debts and despite being under intense pressure from the State House of Assembly members and other citizens to unmask the States debt profile, Gov. Emmanuel and his aides spared neither effort nor opportunity to emphasize his frugal disposition, especially given his erstwhile career background as a banking executive.
It was politically convenient to directly accuse or insinuate that ex-Governor Godswill Akpabio was at fault for having taken so many huge loans. Enraged Akwa Ibomites believed their Governor, least suspecting that Emmanuel and his aides were deliberately stretching a lie too far in order to discredit the former Governor.
On June 13, 2018, the truth bubbled up to the surface as a media aide to Sen. Godswill Akpabio, Jackson Udom, unequivocally stated in a Press Statement what the Udom Emmanuel government never wanted Akwa Ibomites to know. He was reacting to a social media publication that ex-Gov. Akpabio left behind a whopping five hundred billion Naira (N500bn).
“The Akpabio government obtained loans totalling N80bn only. Loans were duly approved of by the State House of Assembly, Jackson Udom stated.
He also stated that the Akpabio government, in 2015, handed over an unpaid debt burden of less than N60bn to the Udom Emmanuel government in addition to revenue enablers such as hospitals, hotels, an International Airport, an International Stadium, the Ibom Power Plant, a Gas Processing Plant at Esit Eket and others.
In an inexplicable twist of fate rendering as a cold war between Gov. Emmanuel and his predecessor, the revenue enablers, meant to boost the State’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) profile, are either abandoned or not operating in full capacities.
Akpabio’s media aide further stated that the Gov. Emmanuel government inherited at least 37 highways, flyovers and bridges in addition to over one hundred and five million United States dollars ($103m), which is due from the ongoing Paris Club refund.
Rolling out more details, Jackson Udom disclosed that “the Akpabio government handed over verified refund due to the State in excess of N145bn (one hundred and forty five billion naira) committed to federal infrastructure.”
“These are in addition to National Assembly approved refund through bonds of which Akwa Ibom gets seventy eight billion Naira (Ñ78bn)”, he stated.
Capping these disclosures, Jackson Udom maintained that the Akpabio government received less than N1.7 tri in eight years and that Akwa Ibom State owed only the United Bank of Africa (UBA) while Godswill Akpabio was Governor.
More than one week since these revelations, neither Gov. Udom Emmanuel nor any official of the Akwa Ibom State Government has reacted.
By Jackson Udom’s disclosures, the Akpabio debt fog was lifted to expose appears to be a ludicrous and malicious web of lies spun by the Udom government.
As expected, mixed reactions by Akwa Ibomites from various walks of life have registered a common concern, which is that there is the possibility of massive corruption and squandermania going on in the Udom Emmanuel government, such as has never been heard of or seen in the State.
In recent weeks, there have been series of damning reports exposing sectoral rot and policies failures especially in the education, health and industrial sectors. Many Akwa Ibomites openly accuse embattled Gov. Emmanuel of fostering cultures of secrecy, unaccountability and misinformation. On many occasions, Government has been caught embellishing some projects status and outrightly lying about many others.
These have Akwa Ibomites so embarrassed and talking all over: never before have they seen this low level governance leading to squandermania of goodwill and blighting poverty in a State rated first in the nation with regards to monthly statutory allocations.
Udom Emmanuel’s government is not known for many developmental projects, but for many controversial and scam projects. Altogether, cost of projects embarked upon by government do not reflect the stream of statutory and other revenues accruing to Akwa Ibom State since 2015.
With regards to the Akwa Ibom debts and revenue, it is now clear that government has been lying about paying off so much of huge debts left behind by the Akpabio government. Instead, government has creatively restructured most debts into long term facilities thereby freeing up funds presumably for development projects. So, to the majority of Akwa Ibomites, the big question is: what has Gov. Udom Emmanuel been doing with Akwa Ibom State money?
Akwa Ibomites also believe that Gov. Udom Emmanuel has not been accountable with regards to the Paris Club refund ($105m), Federal Government refunds and bonds (about N223bn), undisclosed Internally Generated Revenue, monthly statutory allocations and derivation funds and other streams of revenue since June 2015.
Akwa Ibomites can no longer afford or tolerate a low performance and an unaccountable government that notoriously misinforms, scams and squanders both goodwill and resources.